California is one of nine states automatically mailing ballots to registered voters this year, but unusual mail delays have prompted officials to encourage that ballots be mailed back well before the deadline.
Here’s what you need to know about voting by mail — and in person — in the Golden State.
This voter’s guide is also available in Spanish here.
Here’s what you need to know:
When will I receive my mail-in ballot?
County elections officials began sending ballots to the state’s 21 million registered voters no later than Oct. 5. If you are an active registered voter, you do not need to request a mail-in ballot for this election.
However, if you have moved or sat out the last few elections, it’s important to check your voter status to ensure you will automatically receive a ballot in the mail.
Keep up with Election 2020
This year, as the Postal Service grapples with unusual postal delays, worries over ballot deliveries abound.
Voters will be able to track the status of their mail-in ballots using the “Where’s My Ballot?” tool. Notifications are sent when a ballot has been mailed to a voter’s address, when a cast ballot has arrived at the county official’s office and when it has been counted.
Is it too late to register to vote?
No, you have until Oct. 19 to register online, which is recommended if you want to avoid going to an elections office or polling place on Election Day.
You can also register to vote by mailing in an application, which must be postmarked by Oct. 19.
If you miss the Oct. 19 deadline, however, California allows residents to register and vote through Same Day Voter Registration available from Oct. 20 through Election Day. You will need to visit a polling place or county elections office to complete registration this way.
When will I receive an official California Voter Guide?
You can peruse the online Voter Guide before a printed one comes in the mail sometime ahead of the general election.
This year, California voters have a number of propositions to vote on, with a few likely to have big effects on the economy, affirmative action and housing. For a detailed briefing on this year’s ballot propositions and races, you can consult this 2020 Election Guide by CalMatters.
When do I need to return my ballot?
If you choose to return your ballot by mail, it must be postmarked by Nov. 3 and election officials must receive it by Nov. 20.
On the chance that there are postal delays, sending in your ballot as early as possible is advised. This also leaves time for officials to review your ballot signature and send it back to correct any discrepancies.
If you are not sure if your ballot will be received by then, you can also drop off your mail-in ballot at a polling place, county elections office or a county drop box anytime before 8 p.m. on Election Day. Officials have said that polling places will have separate lines for people dropping off ballots.
You can also authorize someone to return the ballot on your behalf, as long as they do not get paid on a per ballot basis.
What are the key dates in this election?
Oct. 5: County election officials began sending out mail-in ballots. Also, early in-person voting began.
Oct. 19: The last day to submit voter registration applications online or by mail. You can still register to vote up to Election Day but you must go to your county elections office or polling place to register in person.
Oct. 27: The deadline to request a mail-in ballot.
Nov. 3: Election Day. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by this date.